21 Jun ‘Crack Babies’ Grow Up Just Fine, Studies Show
When the use of crack exploded in the 1980s, a new fear emerged: that the children of crack addicts would grow up to be troubled and disturbed, and would terrorize the rest of us. The unfortunate children born to women who were hooked on the drug were called crack babies. New research is showing that society’s fears are unfounded.
Crack and Pregnancy
Crack is a form of the drug cocaine, which is a substance that comes from the coca plant of South America. Cocaine is a stimulant and a psychoactive drug, which means that it stimulates the central nervous system, especially the brain. It affects the chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters, producing a high when taken into the body.
The base form of cocaine is called crack or crack cocaine. While powdered cocaine includes the drug itself, plus a salt, crack is just cocaine. When produced, crack forms a crystal solid that can be smoked. When drug dealers first figured out how to make crack from cocaine in the 1980s, they hit the jackpot. They could sell it for more money because it gave users more of a high with a smaller amount. Crack is extremely addictive, and its creation set off an epidemic of addicts in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Unfortunately, many children were born to these addicts.
Crack Babies and the Research
A new review of nearly 30 studies of the effects of crack on babies in the womb and on those children as they aged, shows that early fears about these unfortunate kids were unfounded. Certainly any kind of substance abuse by a pregnant woman can adversely affect the fetus, but people got very worked up about crack a couple of decades ago. Many people were concerned that these kids would grow up to be troubled delinquents who would wreak havoc on society.
The new study looked at evidence from over 5,000 teenagers, some exposed to crack and cocaine in the womb, and others not. All the kids involved were from similar types of disadvantaged neighborhoods and of a low socioeconomic status. The evidence compared the two types of teens in terms of their behavioral problems and their academic achievement.
When the researchers compared delinquent behaviors of the two types of teens, they found no significant differences. These behaviors included things like violence and property damage. While the teens exposed to crack in the womb were more likely to be delinquent, it was not by much. Furthermore, the delinquency rate among the affected teens was still within what is considered to be a normal range. Also, the crack-exposed teens were no more likely than their peers to drop out of school or get arrested.
Another major concern with kids who were exposed to any kind of drug in the womb is a deficit in intellectual abilities. At one time it was assumed by many that crack babies would naturally be less intelligent than their peers. According to the new research, there is only a slight difference between exposed teens and those who were not. The difference is very small, and it is mostly seen in language and in memory skills.
Crack vs. Alcohol
While the effects of crack on children and teens is much less severe than many originally believed, there is another drug that causes more damage. Children with fetal alcohol syndrome can experience severe intellectual disabilities, and even mental retardation, as well as physical abnormalities. Only about 1 percent of pregnant women use crack or cocaine, but 19 percent use alcohol.
No substance abuse is acceptable during pregnancy, but the effects of crack on a fetus have been greatly exaggerated. Perhaps the worst thing about the term “crack baby,” and its use in the ‘80s and ‘90s, is that it created a stigma that these children had to battle against well into their teens. The label, in some cases, and the prejudices that go along with it may have done more damage than the drug itself. The researchers hope that their work will shed light on the problem and help to prevent such future labelin
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